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Alex Kuznetsov won a decisive victory Sunday, April 21, defeating Wayne Odesnik 6-0, 6-2 in the final round of the 2013 Sarasota Open. Despite his comfortable lead, Kuznetsov never assumed he had it in the bag.
“I lost a match earlier this year when I was up by the same margin, 6-0, 4-0, and I didn’t want to repeat it,” he said. “I also know Wayne (Odesnik) is a tough competitor who doesn’t give up, so I just took it one point at a time.”
Sure enough, Odesnik did make a slight comeback after Kuznetsov’s 4-0 second set lead, winning two consecutive games and earning massive applause from a crowd that could sense his frustration. But Kuznetsov regained momentum with consistent serves and groundstrokes and impeccably placed drop shots to put the match away. Though his achievement seemed effortless, Kuznetsov, in the awards ceremony, told the crowd, “I’m tired, very tired.”
Far from a frontrunner, Kuznetsov had to qualify for the tournament then play another six singles matches, including three with split sets. He also played three rounds in the doubles tournament.
“I was really nervous coming into this event, but as I kept winning, I gained confidence,” he said, adding that he hopes the high from the win will give him a boost in the Savannah Challenger in Savannah, Ga., for which he left an hour after the Sarasota Open.
While the men’s singles finals match was primarily one-sided, play in the doubles finals couldn’t have been more even. Ilija Bozoljac and Somodev Devvarman narrowly defeated Steve Johnson and Bradley Klahn 11-9 in a third set tiebreaker, following two sets that also ended in tiebreakers.
“It couldn’t have been closer than this,” Ilija Bozoljac said. “All four of us are friends and we were playing good tennis today, so we went out with the attitude that we would have fun and entertain people, and eventually the victory came.”
In the inaugural Nick Bollettieri Women’s Sarasota Open, Elizaveta Ianchuk defeated her sister, Olga, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.
Forty-six professional players competed in the nine-day event at the Longboat Key Club & Resort’s Tennis Gardens. The Sarasota Open included 31 men’s singles matches, 15 men’s doubles matches and 13 women’s singles matches, as well as a pro-amateur competition and a children’s exhibition event, which esteemed tennis coach Nick Bollettieri led.
The Sarasota Open honored Nick Bollettieri Friday, April 19, by naming the women’s tournament after the renowned coach. Bollettieri started teaching in the late 1950s, first in Wisconsin and then Puerto Rico, but made his mark on the sport by opening the world’s first tennis boarding school on “40 acres of tomatoes” in 1978 in Bradenton. The Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, now part of IMG Academy, a 500-acre sports facility, has been training grounds for legions of tennis champions, including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova. Bollettieri thanked his students and instructors for their dedication to the sport, as well as longtime Colony Beach & Tennis Resort owner Murf Klauber for hiring him as an instructor at the Colony in 1977, which gave him his break into the local tennis community.
Bollettieri, who majored in philosophy at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., used tennis, “a lifelong sport,” as a metaphor for constant vocation.
“Never retire,” he told the crowd. “Change careers if you want, but do something. Go into the inner city to volunteer with kids. Spend quality time with your grandchildren. No one ‘deserves’ to sit and waste away.”
The following morning, Bollettieri led a two-hour exhibition for children, which included lessons in both tennis and life. He spoke of perseverance, sharing stories of former students, including Tommy Haas, who became No. 2 in the world, then suffered a shoulder injury, followed by a hip injury and then nearly lost both parents in a car accident.
“He slipped to No. 345 and people said, ‘You’re finished.’ Last year, he was No. 14,” Bollettieri said. “Boys and girls, during your life, you will suffer setbacks. And this is when your mind and the people you surround yourself with will make a big difference. There is no ball you cannot get except for those you don’t try for.”